What about housing?

29 March 2019 | Columns

Finance minister Calle Schlettwein may have managed to strike a fine balancing act in his national budget delivered this week, but we are not convinced that there is a sharper focus on bread-and-butter issues.

A major highlight from the budget is that fiscal policy has been adjusted to move away from years of austerity due to a poor-performing economy. There is no doubt the N$66.5 billion budget also keeps an eye on the upcoming general election, and aims to please youth voters.

Schlettwein said in the National Assembly on Wednesday the budget provides for a growth stimulus package, centred on the increased magnitude of the development budget, an enhanced resource allocation to the agricultural sector and youth and SME support.

The development budget allocation was increased by 42%, “with greater emphasis on economic growth enhancing infrastructure investment and crowding in private sector participation”, Schlettwein said. Despite an increased allocation to basic education, among others, the budget did not address funding concerns with regard to the new education curriculum. The health's ministry's budget was increased by over 5%, while safety and security got a 7.3% shot in the arm.

The poverty eradication ministry also received an increase of 4.5%. However, there were cuts for higher education and urban and rural development, whose budgets were scaled down by 2.9% and 7.8%, respectively. The huge cuts, particularly in the urban and rural development ministry, are not encouraging, considering the pressing housing crisis, which has seen the nation grappling with a backlog of over 300 000 units.

It is a shame that thousands of Namibians still don't have access to formal housing. We should be at a point where housing should be considered a priority, in order to enhance human life and dignity. This critical basic right should not be undermined, and therefore government must ensure that more and more land is made available and serviced, so ordinary Namibians can build their houses at their own pace.

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